After Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. President signed an armistice on July 27, 1953, the Korean Peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel roughly as it was at the end of World War II.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was fenced off to the north and fenced off to the south, approximately 2.5 miles wide running from the west coast to the east coast of Korea.
What makes the area so dangerous today is that one million land mines and unexploded ordnance remain in the uninhabited 160-mile length of the DMZ, excluding the Truce Village of Panmunjom opened on June 14, 2010, 15 miles east of Kaesong, North Korea.
Added to the explosive danger, Asiatic black bears roam the pristine forests of the rugged terrain along with lynxes and wild boars.
By 2019, the unfettered wild boar population had become both a health problem and a potential death threat from boars ranging from the DMZ to forage for food in South Korea’s urban neighborhoods and downtown areas of cities adjacent to the DMZ.
The African swine flu virus was detected in wild boars from the DMZ pillaging for food south of the DMZ, and one wild boar broke into a restaurant and attacked diners with its razor-like tusks.
After Eisenhower signed the armistice, hostilities did not stop, and from time to time, incidents such as the trimming of a poplar tree that was blocking the United Nations view of a North Korean border patrol watch post on the north side of the DMZ led to the hacking death of two U.S. officers on Aug. 18, 1976.
The U.S. responded with overwhelming force by providing air cover to protect the ground troops that left a 20-foot stump as a reminder of the incident for North Korean troops to view near its command post.
While the DMZ remains a reminder that a peace treaty with North Korea has never been signed by the U.S. and South Korea, the armistice has held through regime changes and Presidential elections.
One positive aspect of the DMZ today is that it has become a bird sanctuary for such avian endangered species as the red-crowned crane (Japan’s logo for its national airline) according to the National Institute of Ecology of South Korea.
The Institute also reports that the DMZ contains 6,000 different species of flora and fauna and that its estuaries and wetlands provide a safe haven for numerous endangered species of fish and frogs.
Water deer thrive in the DMZ along with mountain goats and other mammals, including the endangered Siberian flying squirrel and the endangered Amur leopard cat.
As normalization of relations between North Korea and South Korea improve, naturalists fear that reunification could result in roads being built through the DMV.
South Korea has discovered four tunnels that North Vietnam has built under the DMZ, and tours for tourists have been set up to visit three of the four.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.